Tracie Ching graduated with a BFA in 2009. Since then she has become a self-taught graphic designer working in Washington, D.C., joining the design team for VC Ultimate, the premier ultimate frisbee apparel company, in 2011 and later becoming its Lead Designer in 2012.
Simultaneously, Tracie has produced licensed work for properties such as Star Trek: The Next Generation, AMC’s The Walking Dead, Marvel’s Avengers, and Doctor Who, becoming most commonly known for her limited edition silk screen prints.
Tracie has also shown prominently in galleries such as Spoke Art in San Francisco as well as Gallery1988 and Hero Complex Gallery in Los Angeles.
Previous clients include: Adidas, AMC, CBS, Google, Marvel, Sony Pictures, and TIME Magazine.
My college years were spent studying fine art, eventually culminating in a BFA with a concentration in mixed media sculpture. The graphic design and fine art departments were kept completely separate so I had very little experience with design programs and no formal design training whatsoever.
How did you get a start in design?
Design was something I sort of self-started. As one might expect, graduating with a BFA doesn’t provide much in the way for work, and even less so when earned right on the heels of the Great Recession. I was unemployed for several months and in that time began teaching myself Creative Suite, primarily Illustrator and InDesign. I got a secretarial gig after a while and for the next few years built and applied my design skills, transitioning from secretary to graphic designer to lead graphic designer and then finally to full-time freelance.
Adobe Illustrator and my Wacom tablet
How long does it take you to create a finished image (the Iron Man poster for example)?
It really depends on the subject. If it’s more geometric, something with predictable, delineated planes, the process tends to be much fast. My official Avengers Iron Man poster took only a day or two, where Black Widow took several. The human form, particularly the face, is a tricky amalgam of subtle shapes and transitions. Properly capturing them will always take longer.
Your use of color and line art to draw the eye is fantastic! Can you layout your basic process for starting a piece?
The first step is always research. If the subject of a piece relates to a film or TV show, I watch it. By that time I usually have a composition in mind. I begin gathering reference material (ie. images of any persons involved at certain angles, etc.). Then, I sketch out or assemble the composition I have in mind. If it clicks I begin to move into illustrating, which is essentially a many-tiered editing process. I start with big blocks, breaking them down into smaller and smaller shapes, more frequently composed of individual lines similar to old etching styles.
I would like to say my intial idea(s) don’t always pan out. And sometimes I’m already into the illustrating stage by the time I realize it. Sometimes unexpected issues arise and it is important to stay flexible, which is why I tend to prefer vectors as I can shift and resize at will.
The interaction between vector and raster work (and applications) seems to be overlooked in a lot of design today. Do you use these two different technologies together?
Generally there is very little overlap between vector and raster work in my process. I work almost exclusively in Illustrator. I know of many artists that create or solidify their linework in Illustrator and then do their coloring in Photoshop, but it’s all linework for me, so Illustrator is where I live. The only time I tend to utilize raster programs is when providing files to clients and the like.
I’m finding that giving yourself time to explore and practice your art is difficult when facing deadlines and full-time jobs. Do you have any tips or helpful feedback for designers who find it difficult to balance?
Personally, I have yet to perfect that art. lol When I was starting out, I tried to match certain jobs with techniques I wanted to experiment with. That way I got to flex new muscles as I went. But it’s fair to say those matches may not turn up as frequently as we’d like, so on more than one occasion I created my own opportunities. For instance, I wanted to try out silkscreen printing. I had no way to experiment without sacrificing my time and money on having them printed so I ran a KickStarter to bankroll my first prints. I risk the time on the design, but in the end I more than covered all my costs. It doesn’t always work out so neatly but I’ve found taking a risk in the name of growth can be worth a lot more than always following the safe and known, path.
Check out Tracie Ching’s Work